If the world thinks of a buffoon as lunatic

The lunatic also thinks of the

world as buffoon

Khushal Khan Khattak (1613-1689)

Working in a madhouse is both great fun and experience. You really know it when you work there. I, for one, serve in one. Lying in the outskirts of Islamabad, it’s on the way to the hilly resort, Murree, up northeast. The scene is simply sublime with fine air and clime.

There’re some ninety-five inmates in our institution. As a warden, I’m responsible for their basic amenities and overall wellbeing. You’d think we keep them fully aloof from the outside world but no sir, we don’t. We provide them with every possible means of entertainment and pastime. Cable TV, newspapers – both Urdu and English – magazines, books and outdoor games. This is just to occupy their minds with something outside their own bizarre worlds.

The psychiatric disorders of the inmates vary. Some are simply born retards. Some got cracked either by domestic, social, or economic pressure. Still others are what we officially call - rather euphemistically – the politically incorrect. In simple terms, they’re people, who’re driven insane by the country’s political problems.

Every time, some major political change would take place, they’d gather up to discuss the new development in their own quaint fashion. Please keep in mind they’re the very men who lost their minds, while looking for answers. Their ranting and ravings, therefore, make for extremely interesting material to any political observer and analyst.

Here’s what I heard two of them talking about the pre-and post-May 11 events:

“I’m still confused to this very day” said one lunatic as if on the spur of the moment.  

“Confused about what?” asked the other puzzlingly.

“If it was the tiger or the lion?” replied the first.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked the second, completely lost.

“The League’s electoral symbol, you nincompoop,” the first replied,  

“Oh, that. Well, Fakhru bhai said it was the tiger,” replied the second.

“Hmm, the tiger. Now look here. What I got for you,” said the first and fished out a folded paper from his pocket and pointed to a photo therein.

“What’s that?”

“Two stuffed lions right at an entrance in the Raiwind Palace,” answered the first one.

“Do they symbolize somebody?” asked the second.

“Apparently. But I only want to say this: Just look at our dear leaders’ indiscreetness. Not being able to distinguish even between lion and tiger. And they call us lunatics, huh.”

“You mean the two are different species, with different climes and qualities?” asked the second idiot naively.

“So they say. And not only that. Even a Bengali tiger is something apart from the Siberian one - an endangered species, whose mere possession by a private party is illegal, let alone its flaunting in the political rallies,” replied the first.

“So what should we do?” asked the second.

“Watch Animal Planet and NGC rather than indulging in politics,” curtly came the reply.

“Ha ha. Well, let it go, Mr. Plato. Tell me how you see the League’s first political move?” asked the second lunatic.

“You mean its contact with the D. I. Khan’s Maulana?” said the first.

“Yes. And that warm hugging of him by the Khadim-e-Aala, with broad smiles on their faces, as if someone finds his old love,” replied the second.  

“Well, I’d call it as the very first step toward introducing real democracy in Pakistan,” replied the first.

“And?” asked the second lunatic curiously.

“That it would pave the way for the country to be an Asian Tiger,” replied the first sarcastically.

“Ha. You got quite a sense of humor. I’m afraid the Asian Tiger would meet the same fate as did allegedly the Siberian one, fizzling out in the sizzling heat of Lahore,” remarked the second, asking still further, “What about the first foreign contact then, buddy? Its invitation to the Sardar Sahib to attend the Big Brother’s oath-taking ceremony?”   

“Case of sour grapes. It was only after the Indian pundits declared the good Sardar won’t be able to attend that the League took a summersault and denied any such invitation in the first place,” replied the first.

“Strange. How about the drone attacks? They’re sure to diminish, right?” asked the second nut.

“Phew. That was only a polls’ gimmick. It just took John Kerry’s single telephone call and a meeting with the US Ambassador, Richard Olson, that the tiger took a U-turn. Besides, Khawaja Rafique came up with the mighty revelation the other day, ours is a weak country, not being able to lock horns with someone like Uncle Sam,” replied the first.

Upon listening to this, the second lunatic suddenly sprang up from his seat and started dancing frantically, while singing at the same time: A tayir e lahoti us rizq se moat achi / jis rizq se ati ho parwaz ma kotahi.”

The second one watched him intently until he got fed up with the repetitive twirling and yelled: “Stop it now, man. May 28 is at hand and we got to celebrate our nuclear status, also. Besides, I’d like to share with you an interesting piece of information. Yet another Khawaja. Khawaja Asif, you know. He’s said to be appointed as the Minister for no-Water and no-Power?”

“Whoa, what did he do to earn this retribution?” asked the second lunatic feverishly, adding, “I’m more concerned about the Commando, you see.”

“Oh, no worries on that. The tiger has already granted forgiveness. Only the safe exit remains. Tit for tat. Simple as that. A meeting with the chief has also taken place, you know” said the first one.

“And how about the real chief?” asked the second.

“Oh, the chief justice. Only time can tell. And I am no time, as you can see,” replied the first.

“And the begging bowl?” the second queried.

“Unbreakable. Unshakable. Those who claim they’ll break it lie through their teeth, or should I say through their fangs,” answered the first idiot.

“Don’t you think the tiger has turned into what they call in the Urdu idiom, the wet cat, ever since its winning the polls? Just too many pleasantries, expediency moves, amnesties, calls for friendly matches,” asked the second.

“Indeed. But what I fear is its final metamorphosis into a mouse,” replied the first. 

“Is there anything you’re optimistic about at all?” retorted the second.

“One thing. The rise of the youth” replied the first.

“You mean the …?” the second lunatic was saying something but was cut short by the first.

“Yes, that and even young blood like Mariam Nawaz. After all, I’m no fool. I give credit where it deserves. I see the future not as bleak,” observed the first.  

“What are you pessimistic about anyway?” next asked the second.  

“The intellectual shallowness of our leaders,” the first replied.  

“You’re in the wrong shop, idiot. Looking for Iqbal’s wisdom and Jinnah’s statecraft in the scrape market of downright sorcerers and swindlers,” replied the second lunatic and with that the house bell rang, announcing the recess’ end.

The writer is a freelance columnist.